Nationals acquire Wilson for Day

Nationals acquire Wilson for Day

WASHINGTON -- In need of a power hitter and to insure that they stay in first place in the National League East, the Nationals acquired center fielder Preston Wilson and cash considerations from the Rockies for right-hander Zach Day, outfielder J.J. Davis and a player to be named later or cash considerations on Wednesday night.

The Nationals have been pursuing Wilson for weeks, and they are hoping he can solve their problems on offense. The Nationals rank last in the National League in home runs and RBIs, relying on pitching, defense and timely hitting to lead the National League East heading into the All-Star break.

"We needed to get someone that could give us the three-run home run," said interim general manager Jim Bowden. "We also didn't want to trade our minor leaguers nor did we want to ruin the chemistry of the team."

The deal had been rumored for weeks, but the main hangup had been the resolution of dollar figures. Wilson is making $12.5 million this season, and in the end, the Nationals agreed to pay $2 million of the $5.58 million remaining on the contract, according to a baseball source.

Wilson had a chance to reject the trade, since the Nationals are on the list of teams he could refuse a trade to because the franchise was in Montreal when he signed his contract. But Wilson told Colorado reporters not to long ago that he would accept a trade to the Nationals.

Wilson is hitting .258 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs. His best season in the big leagues was in 2003, when he hit .282 with 36 home runs and 141 RBIs for the Rockies. Wilson also played with the Marlins and Mets. It was with the Marlins, where Wilson became a 30-30 player in 2000. Wilson is the stepson of former Major Leaguer Mookie Wilson and the godson of George Foster, who played over 15 years in the big leagues.

"Preston had a very good first year," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "Last year he was injured, but this year he rebounded. We're very appreciative of the effort Preston brought to the ballpark every day. He was a good player for us. We wish him the best going forward."

Wilson will be the everyday center fielder, with Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd platooning in left field. Brad Wilkerson, the everyday center fielder in the first half of the season, will play first base because of the injury to Nick Johnson. Johnson is currently on the disabled list because of a deep bone bruise in his right heel. He was supposed to have a rehabilitation assignment starting last Sunday, but he never played a game because he had a setback. Johnson hurt the heel running the bases against the Blue Jays last month and hasn't played a game since June 26. During Johnson's absence, the Nationals platooned Wil Cordero and Chad Cordero at fist base.

"Nick Johnson has not quickly recovered as we expected," Bowden said. "We now have depth with Ryan Church and Marlon Byrd platooning in left and Brad Wilkerson playing first base."

According to a baseball source, Bowden is not through making trades. He is still looking for pitching. Bowden is pursuing starters such as Jason Schmidt, Eric Milton and Roger Clemens. Even though they acquired reliever Mike Stanton on Wednesday, the Nationals still wouldn't mind having Mariners closer Eddie Guardado or Reds reliever Kent Mercker on the roster.

As for Day and Davis, they didn't figure in the Nationals' long-term plans. Day started the season in the rotation, but the beginning of the end for Day came on May 3, when he turned his back on manager Frank Robinson after the skipper was walking toward the mound to take him out of the ballgame.

Day was demoted to the bullpen soon thereafter. But things got worse for Day as he fractured his right radius against the Reds last month and was placed on the disabled. Day was on a rehab assignment with Double-A Harrisburg at the time of the trade.

Day is expected to start in the bullpen for the Rockies, but he will slowly work his way into the rotation.

"It's a new beginning. All I have to do is keep the ball down at Coors Field," Day said over the phone. "The Nationals are in first place and they are having the time of their lives.

"Frank and I got along. I will always be grateful that gave me my first opportunity."

Davis, who was obtained from the Pirates in an offseason trade, started with the Nationals as a reserve player, but he had problems hitting breaking balls and was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans in early May. He is hitting .282 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs for New Orleans.

Like Day, Davis is expected to be back in the Major Leagues and join the Rockies on Friday.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for Thomas Harding, a reporter for, contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.